Technology is Not Values Neutral: Ending the Reign of Nihilistic Design
We fail to take tech seriously when we do not grasp its full impact on humans | Jun 26, 2022 | 25 Min Read
Seeking to understand others and communicate honestly is an essential democratic virtue. Can it be maintained in the digital age?
Decades of culture war have degraded civic discourse, putting many open societies in a tailspin of bad faith public communications. Politicians, journalists, and everyday people on all sides intentionally mislead with facts, mischaracterize opposing views, and dehumanize those with whom they disagree. Social media has started to change our basic habits of communication by amplifying and incentivizing bad faith tactics. Every day, whole populations are exposed to powerful forms of computational propaganda and other manipulative information.
Bad faith communication has become normalized. This is bad news for any society that values and seeks to rely upon the uncoerced cooperation of its members. History tells us that the endgames of society-wide communication breakdowns are catastrophic. When open communication cannot be used to resolve conflict and coordinate behavior, societies are driven towards chaos, war, oppression, and authoritarianism. Restoring public trust in good faith communications is possible. But it requires both a cultural shift toward civic virtues and a redesign of the technologies and social processes that structure civic discourse.
People are being deskilled in the art of good faith communication, while refining skills in bad faith tactics.
Despite the new normal of widespread bad faith communication, good faith communication is always already available to all parties (see Box 1 below). But the choice to engage in good faith is an especially difficult choice to make in today’s culture. Powerful disincentives and barriers to making this choice have been put in place during many decades of escalating cultural conflict. Understanding why it has become so hard to engage in good faith communication is the first step towards shifting the cultural balance back in its favor.
Communicating in good faith as a society requires that people take up certain skills and commit to shared values. These skills and values are generally not practiced and endorsed in most contexts of civic discourse today. People are instead being deskilled in the art of good faith communication, while refining skills in bad faith tactics (see both Box 1 and 2 below).
Discourse oriented towards mutual understanding and coordinated action, with the result of increasing the faith that participants have in the value of communicating.
Some Signs of Good Faith Communication:
Note: All signs of good faith communication can be “faked” in bad faith.
Discourse that is intended to achieve behavioral outcomes (including consensus, agreement, “likes”) irrespective of achieving true mutual understanding, with the result of decreasing the faith participants have in the value of communicating.
Some Signs of Bad Faith Communication:
Note: All signs of bad faith communication can be disguised and denied.
The situation has degraded to the point where it is widely believed that calls to good faith (such as this paper) are themselves acts of bad faith, undertaken only by those interested in controlling the discourse. Calls for good faith communication are understood at best as naive requests to calm the outrage and conflict that now runs rife in political discourse. Both ends of the political spectrum (the far left and the far right) express this view. Both sides believe that “the other side” simply can’t be trusted and therefore cannot be engaged in good faith. To do so would be to fall into a trap, serving only to validate the dangerous views of groups known to be acting in bad faith.
This stance of assuming the undesirability (and sometimes impossibility) of good faith communication sets off a spiral of mutual dismissal, distrust, and villainization. The only outcome of this dynamic is escalating cultural conflict and, eventually, physical violence. A growing awareness of this dynamic has political scientists and journalists worrying about increasing violent civil conflict within the United States. Others see the situation leading to some form of authoritarian control over public communications to secure social coordination by force.
There should be no illusion: today’s culture war cannot be won by any side.
All sides agree that in the absence of good faith communication the last resort is some form of violence. Despite this knowledge, many still assert that it is actually unethical to engage “the other side” in good faith. The result is that people are earnestly doing something they believe to be right—refusing to engage in good faith with those they disagree with—which is nevertheless leading towards a result they do not actually want. Meanwhile some parties actively seek to benefit from this dynamic, such as social media companies that leverage conflict for attention capture. The culture war, like most wars, is a source of profit, and is therefore perpetuated despite the dangers.
Given well-documented advances in the field of information warfare, there should be no illusion: today’s culture war cannot be won by any side. Mutually assured destruction is now the name of the wargame. The saturation of bad faith communication throughout culture is steadily increasing, like a kind of dangerous background radiation emitted from scientifically engineered memetic weaponry. Public political discourse is quickly becoming a toxic warzone, leaching externalities into families, friendships, and identity structures.
When institutions that depend on public trust indulge in bad faith communications repeatedly, the legitimacy of these institutions declines.
While insincere and manipulative communications have always been a part of human societies, our modern communications environment surpasses most recent historical periods in terms of the scale of its dysfunction. Comparisons may only be drawn with epochs characterized by failed states, civilizational collapse, and total war. Widespread inability to reach mutual understanding between members of the same society leads inevitably to social breakdown. When institutions that depend on public trust indulge in bad faith communications repeatedly, the legitimacy of these institutions declines. Unreliable communication compounds already complex social problems competing for citizens’ limited attention, including ecological, economic, health, and education crises.
Misleading with facts
Presenting an argument containing factual information, which is used intentionally to lead others to draw a conclusion that is not entirely accurate.
White hat bias
Presuming one’s own moral and intellectual correctness, then using that assumption as righteous justification for communications that are intentionally deceptive and manipulative.
Presenting the arguments of opponents in their weakest forms, and after dismissing those, claiming to have discredited their position as a whole.
Ad hominem dismissal
Disparaging the character or person of others, and in so doing acting as if this also invalidated their arguments.
Moving the goalposts
Establishing an agreed standard (criteria or data) for accepting others’ views, but once this is provided or met, the prior agreement is not mentioned, and a new standard is set. [The reverse case also applies, i.e., when one cannot meet the agreed standards, these standards are forgotten, and new ones are established.]
Acting as if oneself and/or group is unquestionably morally superior and more intelligent than specific disagreeable individuals or groups, and thereby devaluing the members and delegitimating all the views of that group.
Appeals to authority
Deeming that one’s own authority, that of a favorite expert, or that of an associated institution, definitively establishes positions currently being contested, therefore no further communication or explanation is needed and the arguments of the disagreeable parties can be dismissed.
Deploying language that characterizes groups as irredeemably unreasonable and not worthy of consideration, and thereby suggesting such groups should not be engaged in good faith.
Undue social pressure
Making arguments in ways that signal that disagreement will result in removal or disparagement from the in-group, as demands for behavioral conformity override the power of reason and evidence. This includes “canceling ,” deplatforming, unfollowing, blocking, boycotting, trolling, etc.
Employing openly insulting and dismissive language when describing the persons, ideas, or practices of disagreeable groups, thereby justifying the discounting of their arguments without earnest consideration.
Faking empathy and respect
Pretending to feel empathy and respect for disagreeable others in a manner that undermines their actual experiences and beliefs— “strawman empathy.”
Equivocations and false logics
Engaging involved and detailed forms of argument that are nevertheless fallacious and misleading due to subtle (and not so subtle) logical mistakes, such as strategically conflating and misusing terms (equivocation).
Using metaphors and emotional frames to lead preemptively to conclusions that are not fully suggested by the details of the argument.
Creating the image of an “anti-hero” who epitomizes the worst of the disagreeable group, and contrasts with the best qualities of one’s own, then characterizing all members of the other group as if they were identical to that image.
Intentionally focusing on only a few (or the wrong) variables when drawing conclusions about complex systems, while also dismissing as irrelevant or misleading the views of those seeking to include more variables for consideration.
Complexity smoke screen
Bringing an overwhelming amount of complex information to an argument and in so doing strategically downplaying a smaller, less complex set of variables that are actually more meaningful to the topic under discussion.
In the wake of digital communication technologies—especially social media—manipulative information has become vastly more powerful. As demonstrated elsewhere, social media enables undue influence. What this means is that group membership established on social media can result in states akin to “brainwashing”, in which allegiance to the norms of the group and fear of ostracism cause extreme behaviors, both online and offline.
A "post-truth" culture is a culture of bad faith.
A key feature of escalating extremism is a belief that group membership requires bad faith engagements with out-groups. In these contexts, bad faith behavior is often justified to maintain in-group membership and consensus. The normalization of bad faith communication contributes to the creation of extreme in-group pressures, which can rupture identities and exacerbate mental health crises. Personal instabilities usually lead to a doubling down on the need for group membership, increasing rationalizations and amplifications of bad faith practices.
Digital media companies’ business models result in a proliferation of increasingly niche group memberships. They also incentivize public displays of conflict and bad faith communication, in order to capture attention and optimize engagement. Advertisements and propaganda dominate the social media space, driving up the total amount of bad faith communication to which people are exposed. In a very literal sense, heavy users of social media are being behaviorally entrained to engage disproportionately in bad faith communication. Politicians, public officials, and influencers of all kinds seek to exploit this environment of distrust and capitalize on the declining social value of good faith interactions. The epistemic commons is repeatedly degraded to the point of exhaustion. A “post-truth” culture is a culture of bad faith.
This must stop if there is to be any future for open societies. Although there are many significant barriers to acting in good faith, they are surmountable given sufficient interest and willingness to seek cooperation and mutual understanding. If the desired outcome is sustainable uncoerced social cooperation—which is what democracies strive to achieve—then willingness and interest must be found.
The remedy for ongoing bad faith communication is not more bad faith communication.
Good faith communication is both a complex skill and a value commitment that shapes personal identity. In other words: doing it is sufficiently difficult that getting good at it will change the kind of person that you are. But good faith engagement is often misconceived as a simple emotional stance leading to an overzealous search for agreement. In part, this is because naive good faith interactions can often be based on an innocent orientation towards peacemaking and the avoidance of conflict. This can be seen in the good faith engagement of a child who does not know that some people are untrustworthy. Unskillfully engaging in good faith can be a danger when others are acting in bad faith.
In some political discussions today, it is common to hear that “you can’t engage in good faith with Nazis!” A generous interpretation of this statement is that there are truly unreasonable people who must not be trusted because they have proven themselves to be dangerous and unethical. But this is not an argument against good faith communication in general. It’s an argument against engaging in naive forms of good faith communication, which would play into the hands of those actively seeking to cause harm to others. Likewise, for those who have been lied to historically and treated with disrespect by specific groups, naively engaging with those same groups again in good faith would be foolish.
Still, it remains true that under the conditions of contemporary society the endgame of unrelenting and escalating bad faith communications is one in which everyone loses. The remedy for ongoing bad faith communication is not more bad faith communication. The risk of mutually assured destruction in the information wargame cannot be contained. The “solution” therefore appears to be necessarily drastic and unavoidably painful. Without a change in the current trends, authorities are increasingly likely to use force to secure ongoing social coordination. This includes increasingly overt censorship and the ideologically motivated disenfranchisement of dissidents.
Avoiding social catastrophe will require the deployment of highly skilled, non-naive good faith communication. This is a form of communication that seeks to increase for all parties their faith in the value of ongoing communication. Communicating in this way involves recognizing conflict and disagreement as real and important, unlike less skilled forms of good faith communication, in which conflict is judged to be bad and is defused. The goal is to avoid the downward spiral of mutually reinforcing escalations of bad faith. Delicately transforming a situation of escalating bad faith requires the slow establishment of previously unrecognized shared interests, often on issues as basic as self-preservation. The goal in most cases is not agreement—that would be naive—the goal is simply to preserve the possibility of communication itself. More specifically, the goal is to act in ways that generate faith in the value of ongoing future communication. This is faith in a dynamic of communication that makes it possible to change positions, learn, and improve mutual understanding about essential shared realities.
The risks of engaging in good faith can be mitigated. You can strongly disagree with someone in good faith. But this can only happen if you are in the right context, while also being skillful and committed enough to do so. The only way to handle highly charged disagreements in good faith is to have social processes robust enough to hold them. Social media is demonstrably not adequate to this task. But neither are the legacy institutions—such as the judiciary, legislature, and election process—built by the architects of the modern nation state. Digital communications technologies make possible new forms of democracy, as well as new civic communications infrastructures supportive of the good faith exchange essential to open societies. But these possibilities remain unactualized.
This is faith in a dynamic of communication that makes it possible to change positions, learn, and improve mutual understanding about essential shared realities.
Designing technologies that enable good faith communication is not enough; also required is a culture that emphasizes its value as a shared social good. Once underway, good faith communication creates a self-reinforcing dynamic of mutual understanding—even during disagreements—that keeps open possibilities for learning and coordinated action. This is the reverse of the downward spiral of mutual distrust created by bad faith communication. Quick returns of social benefit result from investments in good faith communication across disagreements.
Finally, even though most contexts do not currently support it, there is some personal responsibility that can be taken. Despite the escalating culture war, individuals can cultivate the skills of good faith communication and demonstrate its value as a social good. You can practice disagreeing in ways that maintain relational integrity and respect. Reflect on values. Notice bad faith tactics. Hold politicians, officials, journalists, your friends, and yourself to a higher standard of communication.
To get started you could consider the common strategies of bad faith communication in Box 2 and practice the opposing strategies for good faith. But understand that highly skilled, non-naive good faith communication cannot be made routine. There is not a formula or practice or technology that assures it—and nor should there be. Any approach that becomes a recognized signal of “good faith!” will then be faked in bad faith. Individuals must therefore continually innovate in their approach to communication. We must work together always to find new ways to break the hegemony of bad faith. This should be done as if the future of civilization depends on it—because it does.
We fail to take tech seriously when we do not grasp its full impact on humans | Jun 26, 2022 | 25 Min Read
Bad faith communication has become normalized | Feb 23, 2022 | 10 Min Read
Verified facts can be used to support erroneous conclusions | Jan 30, 2022 | 8 Min Read
Some of our most popular technologies are becoming a means of mass coercion that open societies cannot survive | Dec 5, 2021 | 28 Min Read
The noun was coined by the American ecological psychologist James J. Gibson. It was initially used in the study of animal-environment interaction and has also been used in the study of human-technology interaction. An affordance is an available use or purpose of a thing or an entity. For example, a couch affords being sat on, a microwave button affords being pressed, and a social media platform has an affordance of letting users share with each other.
Agent provocateur translates to “inciting incident” in French. It is used to reference individuals who attempt to persuade another individual or group to partake in a crime or rash behavior or to implicate them in such acts. This is done to defame, delegitimize, or criminalize the target. For example, starting a conflict at a peaceful protest or attempting to implicate a political figure in a crime.
Ideological polarization is generated as a side-effect of content recommendation algorithms optimizing for user engagement and advertising revenues. These algorithms will upregulate content that reinforces existing views and filters out countervailing information because this has been proven to drive time on-site. The result is an increasingly polarized perspective founded on a biased information landscape.
To “cherry pick” when making an argument is to selectively present evidence that supports one’s position or desired outcome, while ignoring or omitting any contradicting evidence.
The ethical behavior exhibited by individuals in service of bettering their communities and their state, sometimes foregoing personal gain for the pursuit of a greater good for all. In contrast to other sets of moral virtues, civic virtue refers specifically to standards of behavior in the context of citizens participating in governance or civil society. What constitutes civic virtue has evolved over time and may differ across political philosophies. For example, in modern-day democracies, civic virtue includes values such as guaranteeing all citizens the right to vote, and freedom of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender identity. A shared understanding of civic virtue among the populace is integral to the stability of a just political system, and waning civic virtue may result in disengagement from collective responsibilities, noncompliance with the rule of law, a breakdown in trust between individuals and the state, and degradation of the intergenerational process of passing on civic virtues.
Closed societies restrict the free exchange of information and public discourse, as well as impose top down decisions on their populus. Unlike the open communications and dissenting views that characterize open societies, closed societies promote opaque governance and prevent public opposition that might be found in free and open discourse.
A general term for collective resources in which every participant of the collective has an equal interest. Prominent examples are air, nature, culture and the quality of our shared sensemaking basis or information commons.
A general term for collective resources in which every participant of the collective has an equal interest. Prominent examples are air, nature, culture, and the quality of our shared sensemaking basis or information commons.
The cognitive bias of 1) exclusively seeking or recalling evidence in support of one's current beliefs or values, 2) interpreting ambiguous information in favor of one’s beliefs or values, and 3) ignoring any contrary information. This bias is especially strong when the issues in question are particularly important to one's identity.
In science and history, consilience is the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can “converge” on strong conclusions. That is, when multiple sources of evidence are in agreement, the conclusion can be very strong even when none of the individual sources of evidence is significantly so on its own.
While “The Enlightenment” was a specific instantiation of cultural enlightenment in 18th-century Europe, cultural enlightenment is a more general process that has occurred multiple times in history, in many different cultures. When a culture goes through a period of increasing reflectivity on itself it is undergoing cultural enlightenment. This period of reflectivity brings about the awareness required for a culture to reimagine its institutions from a new perspective. Similarly, “The Renaissance” refers to a specific period in Europe while the process of a cultural renaissance has occurred elsewhere. A cultural renaissance is more general than (and may precede) an enlightenment, as it describes a period of renewed interest in a particular topic.
A deep fake is a digitally-altered (via AI) recording of a person for the purpose of political propaganda, sexual objectification, defamation, or parody. They are progressively becoming more indistinguishable from reality to an untrained eye.
Empiricism is a philosophical theory that states that knowledge is derived from sensory experiences and relies heavily on scientific evidence to arrive at a body of truth. English philosopher John Locke proposed that rather than being born with innate ideas or principles, man’s life begins as a “blank slate” and only through his senses is he able to develop his mind and understand the world.
It is both the public spaces (e.g., town hall, Twitter) and private spaces where people come together to pursue a mutual understanding of issues critical to their society, and the collection of norms, systems, and institutions underpinning this society-wide process of learning. The epistemic commons is a public resource; these spaces and norms are available to all of us, shaped by all of us, and in turn, also influence the way in which all of us engage in learning with each other. For informed and consensual decision-making, open societies and democratic governance depend upon an epistemic commons in which groups and individuals can collectively reflect and communicate in ways that promote mutual learning.
Inadvertent emotionally or politically -motivated closed-mindedness, manifesting as certainty or overconfidence when dealing with complex indeterminate problems. Epistemic hubris can appear in many forms. For example, it is often demonstrated in the convictions of individuals influenced by highly politicized groups, it shows up in corporate or bureaucratic contexts that err towards certainty through information compression requirements, and it appears in media, where polarized rhetoric is incentivized due to its attention-grabbing effects. Note: for some kinds of problems it may be appropriate or even imperative to have a degree of confidence in one's knowledge—this is not epistemic hubris.
An ethos of learning that involves a healthy balance between confidence and openness to new ideas. It is neither hubristic, meaning overly confident or arrogant, nor nihilistic, meaning believing that nothing can be known for certain. Instead, it is a subtle orientation that seeks new learning, recognizes the limitations of one's own knowledge, and avoids absolutisms or fundamentalisms—which are rigid and unyielding beliefs that refuse to consider alternative viewpoints. Those that demonstrate epistemic humility will embrace truths where these are possible to attain but are generally inclined to continuously upgrade their beliefs with new information.
This form of nihilism is a diffuse and usually subconscious feeling that it is impossible to really know anything, because, for example, “the science is too complex” or “there is fake news everywhere.” Without a shared ability to make sense of the world as a means to inform our choices, we are left with only the game of power. Claims of “truth” are seen as unwarranted or intentional manipulations, as weaponized or not earnestly believed in.
Epistemology is the philosophical study of knowing and the nature of knowledge. It deals with questions such as “how does one know?” and “what is knowing, known, and knowledge?”. Epistemology is considered one of the four main branches of philosophy, along with ethics, logic, and metaphysics.
Derived from a Greek word meaning custom, habit, or character; The set of ideals or customs which lay the foundations around which a group of people coheres. This includes the set of values upon which a culture derives its ethical principles.
The ability of an individual or group to shape the perception of an issue or topic by setting the narrative and determining the context for the debate. A “frame” is the way in which an issue is presented or “framed”, including the language, images, assumptions, and perspectives used to describe it. Controlling the frame can give immense social and political power to the actor who uses it because the narratives created or distorted by frame control are often covertly beneficial to the specific interests of the individual or group that has established the frame. As an example, politicians advocating for tax cuts or pro-business policies may use the phrase "job creators" when referring to wealthy corporations in order to suggest their focus is on improving livelihoods, potentially influencing public perception in favor of the politician's interests.
Discourse oriented towards mutual understanding and coordinated action, with the result of increasing the faith that participants have in the value of communicating. The goal of good faith communication is not to reach a consensus, but to make it possible for all parties to change positions, learn, and continue productive, ongoing interaction.
Processes that occupy vast expanses of both time and space, defying the more traditional sense of an "object" as a thing that can be singled out. The concept, introduced by Timothy Morton, invites us to conceive of processes that are difficult to measure, always around us, globally distributed and only observed in pieces. Examples include climate change, ocean pollution, the Internet, and global nuclear armaments and related risks.
Information warfare is a primary aspect of fourth- and fifth-generation warfare. It can be thought of as war with bits and memes instead of guns and bombs. Examples of information warfare include psychological operations like disinformation, propaganda, or manufactured media, or non-kinetic interference in an enemy's communication capacity or quality.
Refers to the foundational process of education which underlies and enables societal and cultural cohesion across generations by passing down values, capacities, knowledge, and personality types.
The phenomenon of having your attention captured by emotionally triggering stimuli. These stimuli strategically target the brain center that we share with other mammals that is responsible for emotional processing and arousal—the limbic system. This strategy of activating the limbic system is deliberately exploited by online algorithmic content recommendations to stimulate increased user engagement. Two effective stimuli for achieving this effect are those that can induce disgust or rage, as these sentiments naturally produce highly salient responses in people.
An online advertising strategy in which companies create personal profiles about individual users from vast quantities of trace data left behind from their online activity. According to these psychometric profiles, companies display content that matches each user's specific interests at moments when they are most likely to be impacted by it. While traditional advertising appeals to its audience's demographics, microtargeting curates advertising for individuals and becomes increasingly personalized by analyzing new data.
False or misleading information, irrespective of the intent to mislead. Within the category of misinformation, disinformation is a term used to refer to misinformation with intent. In news media, the public generally expects a higher standard for journalistic integrity and editorial safeguards against misinformation; in this context, misinformation is often referred to as “fake news”.
A prevailing school of economic thought that emphasizes the government's role in controlling the supply of money circulating in an economy as the primary determinant of economic growth. This involves central banks using various methods of increasing or decreasing the money supply of their currency (e.g., altering interest rates).
A form of rivalry between nation-states or conflicting groups, by which tactical aims are realized through means other than direct physical violence. Examples include election meddling, blackmailing politicians, or information warfare.
Open societies promote the free exchange of information and public discourse, as well as democratic governance based on the participation of the people in shared choices about their social futures. Unlike the tight control over communications and suppression of dissenting views that characterize closed societies, open societies promote transparent governance and embrace good-faith public scrutiny.
The modern use of the term 'paradigm' was introduced by the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn in his work "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". Kuhn's idea is that a paradigm is the set of concepts and practices that define a scientific discipline at any particular period of time. A good example of a paradigm is behaviorism – a paradigm under which studying externally observable behavior was viewed as the only scientifically legitimate form of psychology. Kuhn also argued that science progresses by the way of "paradigm shifts," when a leading paradigm transforms into another through advances in understanding and methodology; for example, when the leading paradigm in psychology transformed from behaviorism to cognitivism, which looked at the human mind from an information processing perspective.
The theory and practice of teaching and learning, and how this process influences, and is influenced by, the social, political, and psychological development of learners.
The ability of an individual or institutional entity to deny knowing about unethical or illegal activities because there is no evidence to the contrary or no such information has been provided.
First coined by philosopher Jürgen Habermas, the term refers to the collective common spaces where people come together to publicly articulate matters of mutual interest for members of society. By extension, the related theory suggests that impartial, representative governance relies on the capacity of the public sphere to facilitate healthy debate.
The word itself is French for rebirth, and this meaning is maintained across its many purposes. The term is commonly used with reference to the European Renaissance, a period of European cultural, artistic, political, and economic renewal following the middle ages. The term can refer to other periods of great social change, such as the Bengal Renaissance (beginning in late 18th century India).
A term proposed by sociologists to characterize emergent properties of social systems after the Second World War. Risk societies are increasingly preoccupied with securing the future against widespread and unpredictable risks. Grappling with these risks differentiate risk societies from modern societies, given these risks are the byproduct of modernity’s scientific, industrial, and economic advances. This preoccupation with risk is stimulating a feedback loop and a series of changes in political, cultural, and technological aspects of society.
Sensationalism is a tactic often used in mass media and journalism in which news stories are explicitly chosen and worded to excite the greatest number of readers or viewers, typically at the expense of accuracy. This may be achieved by exaggeration, omission of facts and information, and/or deliberate obstruction of the truth to spark controversy.
A process by which people interpret information and experiences, and structure their understanding of a given domain of knowledge. It is the basis of decision-making: our interpretation of events will inform the rationale for what we do next. As we make sense of the world and accordingly act within it, we also gather feedback that allows us to improve our sensemaking and our capacity to learn. Sensemaking can occur at an individual level through interaction with one’s environment, collectively among groups engaged in discussion, or through socially-distributed reasoning in public discourse.
A theory stating that individuals are willing to sacrifice some of their freedom and agree to state authority under certain legal rules, in exchange for the protection of their remaining rights, provided the rest of society adheres to the same rules of engagement. This model of political philosophy originated during the Age of Enlightenment from theorists including, but not limited to John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It was revived in the 20th century by John Rawls and is used as the basis for modern democratic theory.
Autopoiesis from the Greek αὐτo- (auto-) 'self', and ποίησις (poiesis) 'creation, production'—is a term coined in biology that refers to a system’s capability for reproducing and maintaining itself by metabolizing energy to create its own parts, and eventually new emergent components. All living systems are autopoietic. Societal Autopoiesis is an extension of the biological term, making reference to the process by which a society maintains its capacity to perpetuate and adapt while experiencing relative continuity of shared identity.
A fake online persona, crafted to manipulate public opinion without implicating the account creator—the puppeteer. These fabricated identities can be wielded by anyone, from independent citizens to political organizations and information warfare operatives, with the aim of advancing their chosen agenda. Sock puppet personas can embody any identity their puppeteers want, and a single individual can create and operate numerous accounts. Combined with computational technology such as AI-generated text or automation scripts, propagandists can mimic multiple seemingly legitimate voices to create the illusion of organic popular trends within the public discourse.
Presenting the argument of disagreeable others in their weakest forms, and after dismissing those, claiming to have discredited their position as a whole.
A worldview that holds technology, specifically developed by private corporations, as the primary driver of civilizational progress. For evidence of its success, adherents point to the consistent global progress in reducing metrics like child mortality and poverty while capitalism has been the dominant economic paradigm. However, the market incentives driving this progress have also resulted in new, sometimes greater, societal problems as externalities.
Used as part of propaganda or advertising campaigns, these are brief, highly-reductive, and definitive-sounding phrases that stop further questioning of ideas. Often used in contexts in which social approval requires unreflective use of the cliché, which can result in confusion at the individual and collective level. Examples include all advertising jingles and catchphrases, and certain political slogans.
A proposition or a state of affairs is impossible to be verified, or proven to be true. A further distinction is that a state of affairs can be unverifiable at this time, for example, due to constraints in our technical capacity, or a state of affairs can be unverifiable in principle, which means that there is no possible way to verify the claim.
Creating the image of an anti-hero who epitomizes the worst of the disagreeable group, and contrasts with the best qualities of one's own, then characterizing all members of the other group as if they were identical to that image.
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2 Replies to “The Endgames of Bad Faith Communication”
| Mar 03, 2023 at 10:11 pm |
Thanks for this. I have been banging my head against the culture wars for sometime, and I have despaired that empathy and reason and good faith seemed impotent against the phalanx of certainty erected by both right and left. This is a very articulate expression of why my head hurts.
| May 05, 2023 at 10:04 pm |
So good! I am so happy I found this project. Honestly I had almost given up as so few are interested in understanding what is happening.
I wrote as essay on Ignorance that resonates with this article. It is titled “Ignorance, it’s not what you think”
The definition of ignorance is simply lack of information…. by that definition we are all ignorant.
What I talk about though is that there are reasons for ignorance and we would be well served to understand them.
With all due respect Shakespeare;
Some are truly ignorant.
Some choose to be ignorant.
Others have ignorance thrust upon them.
Thats all for now. I wish I do more.